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months at a time. Nearly three years ago we were passing through the
Straits of Madeira, when Patrick O'Donoghan fell overboard. I had the
vessel stopped, and some boats lowered, and after a diligent search we
recovered him; but though we spared no pains to restore him to life, our
efforts were in vain. Patrick O'Donoghan was dead. We were compelled to
return to the sea the prey which we had snatched from it. The accident
was put down on the ship's log, and recorded in the notary's office at
the nearest place we reached. Thinking that this act might be useful to
you, I have brought you a certified copy of it."

As he said this, Mr. Tudor Brown took out his pocket-book and presented
the doctor with a paper stamped with a notarial seal.

The latter read it quickly. It was a record of the death of Patrick
O'Donoghan, while passing through the Straits of Madeira, duly signed
and sworn to, before two witnesses, as being an exact copy of the
original - it was also registered in London, at Somerset House, by the
commissioners of her Britannic Majesty.

This instrument was evidently authentic. But the manner in which he had
received it was so strange that the doctor could not conceal his
astonishment. He took it, however, with his habitual courtesy.

"Permit me to ask one question, sir," he said to his visitor.

"Speak, doctor."

"How is it that you have this document in your pocket duly prepared and
certified? And why have you brought it to me?"

"If I can count, you have asked two questions," said Tudor Brown. "I will
answer them, however - I had this paper in my pocket, because I read your
advertisement two months ago, and wishing to furnish you with the
information which you asked for, I thought it better to give it to you,
in the most complete and definite form that lay in my power. I have
brought it to you personally, because I happened to be cruising in these
waters; and I wished at the same time to gratify your curiosity and my

There was nothing to answer to this reasoning - this was the only
conclusion the doctor could draw.

"Yon are here, then, with the 'Albatross'?" he asked, eagerly.

"Without doubt."

"And you have still on board some sailors who have known Patrick

"Yes, several."

"Would you permit me to see them?"

"As many as you please. Will you accompany me on board now?"

"If you have no objection."

"I have none," said the stranger, as he arose.

Dr. Schwaryencrona touched his bell, and they brought him his fur
pelisse, his hat, and his cane, and he departed with Mr. Tudor Brown.

Fifteen minutes later they were on board the "Albatross."

They were received by an old gray-headed seaman, with a rubicund face,
whose open countenance betrayed only truth and loyalty.

"Mr. Ward, this gentleman wishes to make some inquiries about the fate
of Patrick O'Donoghan," said Mr. Tudor Brown.

"Patrick O'Donoghan," answered the old sailor, "God rest his soul. He
gave us trouble enough to pick him up the day he was drowned in the
Straits of Madeira. What is the use of inquiries now that he has gone to
feed the fishes?"

"Had you known him for a long time?" asked the doctor.

"The rascal - no - for a year or two perhaps. I believe that it was at
Zanzibar that we took him on board - am I right, Tommy Duff?"

"Is any one hailing me?" asked a young sailor, who was busily employed
in polishing a copper bowl.

"Come here," said the other - "Was it at Zanzibar that we recruited
Patrick O'Donoghan?"

"Patrick O'Donoghan," repeated the young sailor, as if his remembrance
of the man was not very good. "Oh yes, I remember him. The man who fell
overboard in the Straits of Maderia. Yes, Mr. Ward, it was at Zanzibar
that he came on board."

Dr. Schwaryencrona made him describe Patrick O'Donoghan, and was
convinced that it was the same man whom he was seeking. Both these men
seemed honest and sincere. They had honest and open countenances. The
uniformity of their answers seemed a little strange, and almost
preconcerted; but after all it might be only the natural consequence of
relating facts. Having known Patrick O'Donoghan only a year at the most,
they would have but little to say about him, except the fact of his

Besides the "Albatross" was a yacht of such large proportions, that if
she had been furnished with some cannon she might easily have passed for
a man-of-war. The most rigorous cleanliness was observed on board. The
sailors were in good condition, well clothed, and under perfect
discipline. The general appearance of the vessel insensiby acted upon
the doctor, and carried conviction of the truth of the statement which
he had just heard. He therefore declared himself perfectly satisfied,
and could not leave without inviting Mr. Tudor Brown to dine with him.
But Mr. Tudor Brown did not think it best to accept this invitation. He
declined it in these courteous terms:

"No - I can not - I never dine in town."

It now only remained for Dr. Schwaryencrona to retire. This he did
without having obtained even the slightest bow from this strange

The doctor's first thought was to go and relate his adventure to Mr.
Bredejord, who listened to him without saying a word, only promising
himself to institute counter inquiries.

But he, with Erik, who had been told the whole story upon his return
from school, repaired to the vessel to see if they could elicit any
further information, but the "Albatross" had left Stockholm, without
leaving word where she was going, and they could not, therefore, obtain
even the address of Mr. Tudor Brown.

All that resulted from this affair was the possession of the document,
which legally proved the death of Patrick O'Donoghan.

Was this paper of any value? This was the question that Mr. Bredejord
could not help doubting, in spite of the evidence of the British consul
at Stockholm, whom he questioned, and who declared that the signatures
and stamp were perfectly authentic. He also caused inquiries to be made
at Edinburgh, but nobody knew Mr. Tudor Brown, which he thought looked

But it was an undeniable fact that they obtained no further intelligence
of Patrick O'Donoghan, and all their advertisements were ineffectual.

If Patrick O'Donoghan had disappeared for good, they had no hope of
penetrating the mystery that surrounded Erik's birth. He himself saw
this, and was obliged to recognize the fact that, for the future, the
inquiries would have to be based upon some other theory. He therefore
made no opposition about commencing his medical studies the following
autumn at the university at Upsal, according to the doctor's wishes. He
only desired, first, to pass his examination as a captain, but this
sufficed to show that he had not renounced his project of traveling.

Besides, he had another trouble which lay heavy at his heart, and for
which he saw no other remedy but absence.

Erik wished to find some pretext for leaving the doctor's house as soon
as his studies were completed; but he wished to do this without exciting
any suspicion. The only pretext which he could think of was this plan of
traveling. He desired to do this because of the aversion of Kajsa, the
doctor's niece. She lost no occasion of showing her dislike; but he
would not at any price have had the excellent man suspect this state of
affairs between them. His relations toward the young girl had always
been most singular. In the eyes of Erik during these seven years as well
as on the first day of his arrival at Stockholm, the pretty little fairy
had always been a model of elegance and all earthly perfections. He had
bestowed on her his unreserved admiration, and had made heroic efforts
to overcome her dislike, and become her friend.

But Kajsa could not make up her mind calmly to see this "intruder," as
she called Erik, take his place in the doctor's home, be treated as an
adopted son, and become a favorite of her uncle and his friends. The
scholastic success of Erik, his goodness and his gentleness, far from
making him pleasing in her eyes, were only new motives of jealousy.

In her heart Kajsa could not pardon the young man for being only a
fisherman and a peasant. It seemed to her that he brought discredit upon
the doctor's household and on herself, who, she liked to believe,
occupied a very high position in the social scale.

But it was worse when she learned that Erik was even less than a
peasant, only a child that had been picked up. That appeared to her
monstrous and dishonorable. She thought that such a child had a lower
place in society than a cat or a dog; she manifested these sentiments by
the most disdainful looks, the most mortifying silence, and the most
cruel insults. If Erik was invited with her to any little social
gathering at the house of a friend, she would positively refuse to dance
with him. At the table she would not answer anything he said, nor pay
any attention to him. She tried on all occasions, and in every possible
way, to humiliate him.

Poor Erik had divined the cause of this uncharitable conduct, but he
could not understand how ignorance of his family, and of the land of his
birth, could be regarded by her as such a heinous crime. He tried one
day to reason with Kajsa, and to make her understand the injustice and
cruelty of such a prejudice, but she would not even deign to listen to
him. Then as they both grew older, the abyss which separated them seemed
to widen. At eighteen Kajsa made her _début_ in society. She was
flattered and noticed as the rich heiress, and this homage only
confirmed her in the opinion that she was superior to common mortals.

Erik, who was at first greatly afflicted by her disdain, ended by
becoming indignant, and vowing to triumph over it. This feeling of
humiliation had a great share in producing the passionate ardor with
which he pursued his studies. He dreamed of raising himself so high in
public esteem, by the force of his own industry, that every one would
bow before him. But he also vowed that he would go away on the first
opportunity, and that he would not remain under a roof where every day
he was exposed to some secret humiliation.

Only the good doctor must be kept in ignorance of the cause of his
departure. He must attribute it solely to a passion for traveling. And
Erik therefore frequently spoke of his desire, when his studies were
completed, of engaging in some scientific expedition. While pursuing his
studies at Upsal, he prepared himself by work, and the most severe
exercise, for the life of fatigue and danger which is the lot of great



In the month of December, 1878, Erik had attained the age of twenty, and
passed his first examination for his doctor's degree. The learned men of
Sweden were greatly excited about the proposed arctic expedition of the
navigator Nordenskiold, and their enthusiasm was shared by a large
proportion of the population. After preparing himself for the
undertaking by several voyages to the polar regions, and after studying
the problem in all its aspects, Nordenskiold intended to attempt once
more to discover the north-east passage from the Atlantic to the
Pacific, which for three centuries had defied the efforts of all the
maritime nations.

The programme for the expedition had been defined by the Swedish
navigator, and he announced the reasons which led him to believe that
the north-east passage was practicable in summer, and the means by which
he hoped to realize this geographical desideratum. The intelligent
liberality of two Scandinavian gentlemen, and the assistance of the
Swedish government, enabled him to organize his expedition upon a plan
which he believed would insure its success.

It was on the 21st of July, 1878, that Nordenskiold quitted From-sae, on
board of the "Vega," to attempt to reach Behring's Strait by passing to
the north of Russia and Siberia. Lieutenant Palanders, of the Swedish
navy, was in command of the vessel, with the instigator of the voyage,
and they had also a staff of botanists, geologists, and astronomical

The "Vega," which had been especially prepared for the expedition under
the surveillance of Nordenskiold, was a vessel of five hundred tons,
which had been recently built at Bremen, and carried an engine of
sixty-horse power. Three ships were to accompany her to successive
points on the Siberian coast, which had been previously determined upon.
They were all provisioned for a cruise of two years, in case it might be
necessary for them to winter in those arctic regions. But Nordenskiold
did not conceal his hope of being able to reach Behring's Strait before
autumn, on account of his careful arrangements, and all Sweden shared
this hope.

They started from the most northerly point of Norway, and the "Vega"
reached Nova Zembla on the 29th of July, on the 1st of August the Sea of
Kara, and on the 6th of August the mouth of the Gulf Yenisei. On the 9th
of August she doubled Cape Schelynshin, or Cape North-East, the extreme
point of the continent, which no vessel had hitherto been able to reach.
On the 7th of September she cast anchor at the mouth of the Lena, and
separated from the third of the vessels which had accompanied her thus
far. On the 16th of October a telegraphic dispatch from Irkutsk
announced to the world that the expedition had been successful up to
this point.

We can imagine the impatience with which the friends of the Swedish
navigator waited for the details of the expedition. These details did
not reach them until the 1st of December. For if electricity flies over
space with the rapidity of thought, it is not the same with the Siberian
post. The letters from the "Vega," although deposited in the post-office
at Irkutsk, at the same time that the telegraphic message was
dispatched, did not reach Sweden until six weeks afterward. But they
arrived at last; and on the 5th of December one of the principal
newspapers of Sweden published an account of the first part of the
expedition, which had been written by a young medical doctor attached to
the "Vega."

That same day, at breakfast, Mr. Bredejord was occupied in reading with
great interest the details of the voyage, given in four columns, when
his eyes fell upon a paragraph which almost upset him. He re-read it
attentively, and then read it again; then he arose, and seizing his hat
and coat, he rushed to the house of Dr. Schwaryencrona.

"Have you read the correspondence of the 'Vega'?" he cried, as he rushed
like a hurricane into the dining-room where the doctor and Kajsa were
taking their breakfast.

"I have just commenced it," replied the doctor, "and was intending to
finish reading it after breakfast, while I smoked my pipe."

"Then you have not seen!" exclaimed Mr. Bredejord, out of breath. "You
do not know what this correspondence contains?"

"No," replied Doctor Schwaryencrona, with perfect calmness.

"Well, listen to this," continued Mr. Bredejord, approaching the window.
"It is the journal of one of your brethren, the aid of the naturalist of
the 'Vega.'"

"'30th and 31st of July, we entered the strait of Jugor, and cast anchor
before a Samoyede village called Chabarova. We landed, and I questioned
some of the natives to discover, by Holmgren's method, the extent of
their perception of colors. I found that this sense was normally
developed among them. Bought of a Samoyede fisherman two magnificent

"Pardon me," interrupted the doctor; "but is this a charade you are
reading to me. I confess I do not see how these details can interest

"Ah! they do not interest you?" said Mr. Bredejord, in a triumphant
tone. "Well, wait a moment and you will see:

"'Bought of a Samoyede fisherman two magnificent salmon, which I have
preserved in alcohol, notwithstanding the protestations of our cook.
This fisherman fell into the water as he was quitting the ship. They
pulled him out half suffocated and stiffened by the cold, so that he
resembled a bar of iron, and he, also, had a serious cut on his head. We
were just under way, and they carried him to the infirmary of the
"Vega," while still unconscious, undressed him, and put him to bed. They
then discovered that this fisherman was an European. He had red hair;
his nose had been broken by some accident, and on his chest, on a level
with his heart, these words were tattooed: "Patrick
O'Donoghan - Cynthia."'"

Here Dr. Schwaryencrona uttered a cry of surprise.

"Wait! listen to the rest of it," said Mr. Bredejord; and he continued
his reading:

"'Being subjected to an energetic massage treatment, he was soon
restored to life. But as it was impossible for him to leave us in that
condition, we were compelled to take care of him. A fever set in and he
became delirious. Our experiment of the appreciation of colors among the
Samoyedes, therefore, was frustrated. - 3d of August. The fisherman of
Chabarova has recovered from the effects of his bath. He appeared to be
surprised to find himself on board the "Vega," and _en route_ for Cape
Tahelyuskin, but soon became reconciled to his fate. His knowledge of
the Ganwyede language may be useful to, us, and we have determined to
take him with us on the coast of Siberia. He speaks English with a nasal
accent like a Yankee, but pretends to be Scotch, and calls himself Tommy
Bowles. He came from Nova Zembla with some fishermen, and he has lived
on these shores for the last twelve years. The name tattooed upon his
chest he says, 'is that of one of the friends of his infancy who has
been dead for a long time.'"

"It is evidently our man," cried the doctor, with great emotion.

"Yes, there can be no doubt of it," answered the lawyer. "The name, the
vessel, the description, all prove it; even this choice of a pseudonym
Johnny Bowles, and his declaring that Patrick O'Donoghan was dead, these
are superabundant proofs!"

They were both silent, reflecting upon the possible consequences of this

"How can we go so far in search of him?" said the doctor, at length.

"It will be very difficult, evidently," replied Mr. Bredejord. "But it
is something to know that he is alive, and the part of the world where
he can be found. And, besides, who can tell what the future may have in
store? He may even return to Stockholm in the 'Vega,' and explain all
that we wish to find out. If he does not do this, perhaps we may, sooner
or later, find an opportunity to communicate with him. Voyages to Nova
Zembla will become more frequent, on account of this expedition of the
'Vega.' Ship-owners are already talking about sending every year some
vessels to the mouth of the Yenisei."

The discussion of this topic was inexhaustible, and the two friends were
still talking about the matter, when Erik arrived from Upsal, at two
o'clock. He also had read this great piece of news, and had taken the
train for home without losing a moment. But it was a singular fact that
he was not joyful, but rather disturbed by this new intelligence.

"Do you know what I am afraid of?" said he to the doctor and Mr.
Bredejord. "I fear that some misfortune has happened to the 'Vega.' You
know it is now the 5th of December, and you know the leaders of the
expedition counted upon arriving at Behring's Strait before October. If
this expectation had been realized, we should have heard from her by
this time; for she would have reached Japan, or at least Petropaulosk,
in the Aleutian Islands, or some station in the Pacific, from which we
should have received news of her. The dispatches and letters here came
by the way of Irkutsk, and are dated the 7th of September, so that for
three entire months we have heard nothing from the 'Vega.' So we must
conclude that they did not reach Behring's Strait as soon as they
expected, and that she has succumbed to the common fate of all
expeditious which for the last three centuries have attempted to
discover the north-east passage. This is the deplorable conclusion which
I have been compelled to arrive at."

"The 'Vega' might have been obliged to encounter in the Polar regions a
great deal which was unforeseen, and she might have been unprovided for
such a contingency," replied Dr. Schwaryencrona.

"Evidently; but this is the most favorable hypothesis; and a winter in
that region is surrounded by so many dangers that it is equivalent to a
shipwreck. In any case, it is an indisputable fact that if we ever have
any news of the 'Vega' it will not be possible to do so before next

"Why, how is that?"

"Because, if the 'Vega' has not perished she is inclosed in the ice, and
she will not be able, at the best, to extricate herself before June or

"That is true," answered Mr. Bredejord.

"What conclusion do you draw from this reasoning?" asked the doctor,
disturbed by the sad tone of Erik's voice as he made the announcement.

"The conclusion that it is impossible to wait so long before solving a
question which is of such great importance to me."

"What do you want to do? We must submit to what is inevitable."

"Perhaps it only appears to be so," answered Erik. "The letters which
have reached us have come across the Arctic Ocean by the way of Irkutsk.
Why could I not follow the same route? I would keep close to the coast
of Siberia. I would endeavor to communicate with the people of that
country, and find out whether any foreign vessel had been shipwrecked,
or was held prisoner among the icebergs. Perhaps I might succeed in
finding Nordenskiold, and Patrick O'Donoghan. It is an enterprise worth

"In the middle of winter?"

"Why not? It is the most favorable season for traveling in sleighs in
that latitude."

"Yes; but you forget that you are not there yet, and that it will be
spring before you could get there."

"That is true," said Erik, who was compelled to recognize the force of
this argument. He sat with his eyes fixed on the floor, absorbed in

"No, matter," said he suddenly; "Nordenskiold must be found, and with
him Patrick O'Donoghan. They shall be, or it will not be my fault."

Erik's plan was a very simple one. He proposed to write an anonymous
letter to the leading newspapers of Stockholm, and thus proclaim his
fears as to the fate of the "Vega." Had she been shipwrecked, or was she
held a prisoner by icebergs, and he concluded his communication by
representing how important it was that some vessel should be sent to her
assistance in the latter case.

The truth of his reasoning was so apparent, and the interest in the
expedition so general, that the young student of Upsal was certain that
the question would be warmly discussed in scientific circles.

But the effect of his letter was beyond his highest expectations. All
the newspapers without exception expressed their approval of his
proposition while commenting upon his communication.

Public opinion was unanimously in favor of fitting out a relief
expedition. Commercial men, manufacturers, the members of schools and
colleges, the judicial corps - in fact, all classes voluntarily
contributed to the enterprise. A rich ship-owner offered to equip a
vessel at his own expense, to go to the relief of the "Vega;" and he
named it the "Nordenskiold."

The enthusiasm increased as days passed without bringing any
intelligence of the "Vega." By the end of December, the subscription had
reached a considerable sum. Dr. Sehwaryencrona and Mr. Bredejord had
headed the list with a subscription of ten thousand kroners each. They
were members of the committee who had chosen Erik for their secretary.

The latter was in fact the soul of the undertaking. His ardor, his
modesty, his evident ability with regard to all questions relative to
the expedition, which he studied untiringly, soon acquired for him a
most decided influence. From the first he did not conceal the fact that
it was his dream to take part in the enterprise, if only as a simple
sailor, and that he had a supreme and personal interest in the matter.
This only gave the greater weight to the excellent suggestions which he
made to the originators of the expedition, and he personally directed
all the preparatory labors.

It was agreed that a second vessel should accompany the "Nordenskiold,"
and that it should be like the "Vega," a steamship. Nordenskiold himself
had demonstrated that the principal cause of the failure of previous
attempts had been the employment of sailing vessels. Arctic navigators,
especially when on an exploring expedition, must not be dependent upon
the wind, but must be able to force their way speedily through a
difficult or perilous pass - and above all, always be able to take the

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Online LibraryAndré LaurieThe Waif of the Cynthia → online text (page 8 of 17)